The Novelry Blog
Where the writers are.
Our guest tutor, Mark Billingham, is one of the UK’s most acclaimed and popular crime writers. His series of novels featuring DI Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award and his debut novel, Sleepyhead was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. His latest novel is Their Little Secret. A television series based on the Thorne novels starred David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and a series based on In The Dark and Time Of Death was broadcast on the BBC in 2017. Mark lives in London with his wife and two children. When he is not living out rock-star fantasies as a member of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, he is hard at what he claims is 'laughably' called work; writing his next novel.
Enjoy his tip-offs, my dark-hearted writers.
TEN TIPS FOR WRITING CRIME FICTION
(SOME MORE SERIOUS THAN OTHERS.)
- READ! I know this sounds blindingly obvious, but I’m constantly amazed by the number of people I meet who tell me...
'There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.' Somerset Maugham.
It's the same for story. Numerous books have been writing on the matter, none have proven definitive. Our philosophy at The Novelry is simple—tools, not rules. We don’t believe in a format, template or boilerplate novel, or grand definitive maxims.
A novel can offer one of the most intimate experiences of your life. Something like a beach blanket conversation with a dear friend. It can also be more like a movie in your head, like a funfair ride. Sure, you know this ride was designed for maximum impact, but you’re enjoying the thrills and spills. It is quite possible to enjoy novels of either kind and everything in between. There is no novel rule book. And if there were most writers are so wonderfully wilful they’d throw it out the window.
We believe in you, the writer, and your novel. We are here to breathe life...
There was something in the air at The Novelry last week, the 'sense of an ending' one might say, the changing of seasons, and we saw many of our writers slamming down the first draft of their novels in fine style. Congratulations to all of you.
You know the drill! At the end of the Ninety Day Novel course, we prepare you to raise your sights for second draft with a month off, reading good works, ready to return to your novel as a reader rather than a fond and indulgent parent. The Big Edit course is a big step up, as we set sights on publication. From creator, you become a professional author, driving the story hard, and get help with the heavy lifting from your tutor.
The month off between drafts allows for some gluttonous reading enabling the writer emerging from hibernation with their novel to blink at some bright new writing, catching up with what's hot and what's stood the test of time. I've been greedily reading through lockdown poring through Bukowski, Camus,...
I’ve been a reader longer than a writer, and I think that’s true for most people who pick up a pen to write a story. More and more I’ve been thinking about my Year 5 teacher, Mrs Murphy, who read to us each day at 3pm on the carpet in the corner of our classroom, a veritable cavalcade of fantasy fiction: Alan Garner. Redwall. The Dark is Rising sequence. I can likely trace my love of other worlds back to sitting cross-legged on an itchy carpet in north London, where the end-of-day bell would ring and thirty children would groan in disappointment. ‘But what happens next?’ It’s the question that’s come to haunt my adult life.
I’ve published two novels with Penguin Random House. My first, Hold Back the Stars, is about a couple falling in space with only 90 minutes of air remaining, intercut with their love story on a utopian Earth. I learnt by doing with this novel – particularly when it comes to the publishing industry. I...
The first chapter of a novel needs to do some heavy lifting to start the story. Once you realize that what needs to be done follows a fairly clear format, it makes light work of the task.
- to put your reader into the world (location/setting/era)
- to pose a question the reader wants to get an answer for (create mystery or intrigue)
- to introduce the main character
- to set the mood
- to kickstart the plot development
But what's essential for a story to start in the space between you and the reader?
In the video with this blog, you'll find a clip from a lesson with Justin Cronin in which he describes the basic layout as:
- where and when are we?
- who are the major players?
- what's the point of view?
- What's the story's larger moral and cultural setting?
"There's nothing wrong with just flat out declaring this information at the start of a narrative. I...
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